Generation X Needs to Get Serious About Retirement

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) – Want to ditch that slacker label, Generation X? Start by getting your retirement plans in order.

If you’re about 33 to 49 years old, we know the past few years haven't been easy on you. The Pew Charitable Trusts says the leading edge of Generation X — folks born from 1966 to 1975 — lost about 45% of its wealth during the Great Recession. It's a generation that graduated amid one recession, missed out on the dot-com bubble that preceded it, missed out on the housing boom because it couldn't scrape together enough cash and was plunged headlong into yet another recession, thanks to the housing bust that followed.

Gen X has since watched what little net worth it had plummet from an average of $75,000 in 2007 to just $42,000 in 2010. That $33,000 loss isn't nearly as much as the nearly $75,000 lost by baby boomers born just after World War II, but at least that group is still sitting on roughly $170,000 apiece, thanks to the cash it made during the dot-com and housing booms. Pew concluded that not only did Gen X lose out during the housing bubble because of its low rate of homeownership but that "Gen Xers are the least financially secure and the most likely to experience downward mobility in retirement.”

To top it off, Gen Xers are generally less prepared for retirement than the baby boomers because of the switch from employer-paid pensions to 401(k) plans, investment losses, higher debt and lower savings. Still, it's not too late to create even a modest cushion for retirement, if not one that's somewhat comfortable.

“If you wait too long, you might have to delay retirement and keep working a lot longer than you’d like,” says Melinda Kibler, a certified financial planner with Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Since neither employers nor Social Security will fully fund a decent retirement, you have to take the initiative.”

It won't be easy. According to a 2012 Insured Retirement Institute report, only a third of Gen Xers are "very confident" about having enough money to live comfortably during retirement, cover their medical expenses and send their kids to college. Just 41% have figured out how much they'll need to save for retirement. Among those who have saved, half have amassed less than $100,000. The study also noted that during the recession, 15% of Xers made early withdrawals from their 401(k) plans, 23% stopped contributing to their retirement accounts and 22% stopped contributing to college savings plans.

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